Sunday, February 27, 2011

Yes, Aunt Sherry, I corned my own beef.

When I was a kid, our family regularly went to visit my aunt Sherry and I remember her often making corned beef and cabbage. Luckily, she threw some potatoes in there, or I would've starved. It was not my favorite dish. Even as a grown up, it's not put high on the list of foods I like to eat. However, I love a challenge. Who else opens a bakery one month before she gives birth, because she thought it could be a good learning experience? Crazy to think that that happened almost 18 years ago. While it continues to challenge me in ways that always suprise, it has also made me a little addicted to trying new things. You know, stretching my boundaries to the point of 'what the heck was I thinking?'. Now that my kids and the bakery are both bigger and seem to need me less and less, I have enjoyed exploring different culinary challenges whenever they come my way. Many of those I have fallen into online.
The world of food has exploded on the internet in the last 5 years since I first logged on. I am continually amazed by the wealth of information and great people sharing it right there on the computer screen in front of me.  Living as we do in a remote corner of the northern hemisphere, sometimes, it is as though we aren't a part of american culture. Alaska is often not included on maps of the US on television and in books. If it is, it's small and in a box on the side, floating...attached to nothing. But we are here and, yes, thanks to the internet, we are becoming more and more connected to what we like to refer to as the 'Outside'. I happened upon the Charcutepalooza challenge through my friend Michael Ruhlman's blog. He is the one who inspired me to cure my own bacon (I have now cured at least a half dozen whole pork bellies, we never buy bacon at my house anymore) and has overall gotten me to stretch my boundaries, both in cooking and writing. And while it sounded fun, I hesitated because thought it would just be more than I could do, with the summer coming on, I'm sure to fall apart. But then all of a sudden, I figured, why not at least try. (Aunt Sherry would like that.) I realize I'm a little late to the game, but I'll do my best to catch up.
So what does all this have to do with corned beef? It's the march challenge for Charcutepalooza (i love/hate typing that word) that's why! Well, brining meat is and I am very grateful to both Mrs. Wheelbarrow and Yummy Mummy for putting this on, and to Punk Domestics for providing a place to share our posts. Not much of a chance for me to attend any of the events (unless there are any other alaskans out there who want to join me in one here!) but I can share my experience and see how everyone else did too.

I decided to go to my butcher to see what he had before I choose what cut to brine. I found a couple of nice pieces of Angus beef brisket raised a ways up north of here in the town of Delta.  The spices for the pickling liquid were a little more of a challenge with my somewhat limited local resources. Since this was an impulse move, there was no time to order from my peeps at The Spice House. The pickling spice available had no weird ingredients and contained everything I was looking for. I bumped it up by adding some of my own brown mustard seed and more black peppercorns.

Stirred and cooked together, the brine is set outside to chill...the cold, snowy weather making it a quick process. I then put the brine into into a plastic container and submerged the brisket, weighing it down with a small plate. 
it looks like a beautiful abstract painting 
I covered the container loosely and put in the back of the fridge.
For 5 days...ok maybe it was 6, but I got busy.
On my next day off I finally pulled it from the brine and rinsed of the beef. I put it into a pot, covered it with water, added a handful of my enhanced pickling spice and cooked on medium low heat for bout 2 hours, until it was fork tender, but not falling apart. I wanted to be able to chill and slice it for sandwiches. I had guests for dinner that night, so the brisket had to head right outside to cool and get out of the way. I wasn't until two days later that I came back to it, pulled it out of the cooking liquid and wrapped it up, tucking it into my bag as I ran off to work, hoping there would be some good light for photographing my little slabs of corned goodness.

 Lucky for me, it was a friday and Sharon had some of her fantastic rye loaves in the case and Ryan's chipotle slaw was already made to go with the pulled pork sandwich special of the day. Even luckier still, part way through the afternoon, the bakery quieted down and the sun came out, so I set up shop to make and photograph my very first, from scratch, corned beef sandwich. 

this definitely ain't my aunts corned beef and cabbage!
The big flavor of the dark rye bread and the spicy sweet of the slaw were perfect with the beef. I just added a little dijon mustard for moisture and a little extra bite. In the middle of a busy bakery day, it was a perfect lunch, though most of my break was spent taking photos, I actually ate it slowly, snatching bites between cake baking and all the other things that filled up my work day. The process of making the beef was so easy, I started to fantasize about brining our own at the bakery...and then I looked into our already packed refrigerators. Reality sucks sometimes...maybe someday we'll get a walk-in.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Nothing says love like Angel Brownies

Valentines Day is coming but you don't have to wait to give that special someone a gift that will tell them exactly how you feel. Such as how much you like their pants! 
Angel Brownies available now and through Feb 14th. a deal at $2.50 each. 
(not exactly free speech, but very tasty)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Let the wild rumpus begin!

We quietly opened for real last night to a few reservations on the books and my kids as the first table. It was a poignant scene for me as I had left the restaurant world and began the bakery when I started having kids. Now that they are so big, I get to revisit that dream. With such a talented and fun staff to help me and an amazing place like this to work in, it is all I could have ever asked for!
Last friday we had a practice night where we invited friends and a few loyal customers to help us 'play restaurant'. It allowed us to try out the menu and figure out how to transform the bakery into a bistro for the evenings. Sharon brought her family in and Irene's came, too. Even my husband John joined friends for a lovely evening of amazing food and dreams come true. It was such a huge success we decided to open in earnest this weekend. To keep it from getting too crazy, we let it go 'round by word of mouth for this week, so as to not be overwhelmed. It was a perfect mix of walk-ins and reservations giving everyone a little practice with time to breathe in between. We'll do it again tonight and, with luck, be ready when the ads hit the papers and the radio this week...let the wild rumpus begin!
I'll post a pic of the menu when I get to work today. This week it's beef shanks and fresh cod. Next week cuban style ribs that'll spice up your February!
Hours are Friday and Saturday 6 - 9 pm. Reservations encouraged. phone (907)235-2280.